REGION: Rural nationalism and chauvinism

When speaking of any society, it is necessary to ask how far into the grassroots the reach of chauvinistic, exclusionary ultra-nationalism stretches. This is an important question, because it is the people at the mass level who define the political direction of any country. If ultra-nationalist populism has the masses in its grip, it constricts the manoeuvring ability of the politicians who might know better, and allows the demagogue to take politics to the ultra-left or ultra-right.

While 'soft' nationalism, in itself, is a fine thing, providing for a comforting – secular, cultural – identity, it can become dangerous if radicalised and used by the capital-based establishment to entrench itself against competing forces within a nation state. Such a situation promotes the centralisation of the state apparatus, and fosters a military mindset. It is at this point that histories and textbooks are rewritten to serve the interests of the central elite establishment – and an ultra-nationalism is born that, in turn, waters the soil of chauvinism. Neighbouring countries as well as those farther afield are seen with a suspicion that is largely undeserved, and a conspiracy-seeking sensibility invades our consciousness.

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Himal Southasian